In the past, based on concerns about destroying the family unit, courts did not allow family members to sue one another for torts. Today, however, many courts have moved away from this ideal, reasoning that if members of a family have torts claims against one another, the family unit must have already suffered a significant breakdown and, at the very least, injured family members should be allowed to seek compensation.
The stigma that may have originally been associated with suing a family member for personal injury has gradually eroded. The intra-family immunity from lawsuits brought by other family members that had developed over the years in our nation’s courts, changed dramatically in the second half of the 20th Century. While most states originally observed the doctrines of parental and spousal immunity, many have recently created exceptions or abandoned the doctrines completely.
“Common law” covers a broad spectrum of legal principles gleaned from laws and lawsuit results derived from English legal history and traditions. The doctrine of spousal immunity is one such doctrine adopted by many U.S. states. This doctrine prohibited one spouse from suing the other for personal injury, based on the ideal that a married couple is a unit and it is pointless for a legal unit to bring suit against itself. Other reasoning was to preserve the family unit as well as its assets and integrity.
Once accepted and enforced by the majority of U.S. states, this doctrine has now been completely eradicated in most states. Even those states which still adhere to the traditional policy of prohibiting family members from suing each other- Washington D.C., Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming- make certain exceptions if a tort was intentional. Two common exceptions include allowing a spouse to sue for damages arising from intentional physical or sexual abuse, and for negligence arising from a car accident.
Parental Immunity from Doctrine
Originating from an 1891 Mississippi Supreme Court case, this doctrine protected parents from being sued by their children for parental actions against them as minors. By the latter half of the 20th Century, this doctrine, too, was being re-examined. While Parental Immunity was completely abolished in some jurisdictions, many others adopted exceptions to the law. One such exception allows children to sue a parent if he or she is injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of the parent. “Emancipated” children are typically allowed to sue their parents for negligence and injury, even if the injury arose from actions that would otherwise be considered parenting.
Family immunity laws were originally instituted to keep families from enduring further turmoil after an accident, and preventing families from committing insurance fraud. To further protect themselves, insurance companies began adding “household exclusion” clauses to automobile policies. Courts, however, are less convinced of an inherent risk of collusion amongst family members, and therefore, have found a variety of ways to justify exceptions to family immunity laws.
Contact our Denver Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, it is important to know that you are not alone. At Paysinger Law, our Denver personal injury attorneys are ready to help fight for your rights after a serious accident. Call Denver attorney Robert Paysinger today to discuss your case. Our law firm offers FREE case consultations and can be reached at 303.279.0221.
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